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Navy Pier To Be Leased To New Oversight Agency

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Navy Pier

(credit: navypier.com)

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Updated: 1/5/11 – 4:47 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s where more tourists flock than anywhere else in the state. Starting today, someone new is in charge of Navy Pier: a group of 13 Chicagoans who now hold the pier’s future in their hands.

CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports on what this means to you and me.

Even on a winter’s day, there’s ample evidence that the shops, restaurants and free public promenades of Navy Pier are the state’s leading tourist attraction.

Pushing her daughter’s stroller through the Winter Garden, Donielle Parrish from the Northwest Side says the train, Children’s Museum and restaurants keep her coming back.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s John Cody Reports.

Since the late 80′s operations at Navy Pier have been connected to the massive convention business at McCormick Place through the city and state’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

In fact, Navy Pier’s financial successes have often helped the convention space pay the bills.

“There came to be a sense that the job of Navy Pier was to earn a lot of money to subsidize McCormick Place. Well, that’s wrong,” said Jim Reilly, who is the MPEA’s managing trustee.

The dual missions of the facilities are now separating, as Navy Pier comes under the management of a newly formed not-for-profit corporation.

Thirteen civic leaders will be on the new Navy Pier board.

Newly appointed board members point to the turnover of the Lincoln Park Zoo to a not-for-profit corporation as a blueprint for success.

“We think with the not-for-profit aspect of it, we’ll be able to raise more money for the projects we are talking about,” said Sara Nava Garvey, a member of the new Navy Pier Board and its transitional chair.

Patrick F. Daly, a real estate development and brokerage firm owner and 17-year McPier board member, will serve as co-chair.

It comes as Navy Pier readies plans to revamp the facility that promise to balance both commercial and free park development.

It’s happening in tight times for fundraisers everywhere.

It’s why the Authority will make an original capitol contribution of roughly $40 million to help the Pier spruce up to keep the visitors coming back.

In addition to calling for an advocate that only focused on Navy Pier, the Urban Land Institute report also called for sweeping changes.

While the Navy Pier Ferris wheel long ago gained iconic status, the new plan would replace it with a new ride called the Great Chicago Wheel. The ride would operate year-round with enclosed, temperature-controlled cars.

The plan also calls for a new children’s anchor to replace the Chicago Children’s Museum, which is expected to move to Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park. Among the suggestions are Kidzania or Legoland Discovery Centre.

The Urban Land Institute is also calling for McPier to help fund the expansion of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to 950 seats, and for the redevelopment of the underused 170,000 square-foot Festival Hall.

The Festival Hall currently hosts trade shows and the annual Winter WonderFest carnival. The Urban Land Institute is suggesting the space be used for a new 4,000-seat concert venue, an ice skating rink, or a sports facility with changeable flooring.

The current design of Navy Pier dates from 1995, when a $200 million redevelopment was completed. The Family Pavilion, Crystal Garden, Ferris wheel and carousel opened to much fanfare in the summer of that year, along with the food court and new restaurants. The Shakespeare Theater followed in 1999, and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows in 2000.

After the 1995 redevelopment, Navy Pier quickly became the state’s top tourist attraction. But McPier officials have said the intention was to refresh the Pier every 10 years, whereas it has now been almost 16.

Members of the new board are all civic leaders with backgrounds in management, museums, and the media. All are serving on a voluntary basis.

CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole contributed to this report.

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